I can see the bright red sign in the distance growing in size as I approach the corner to turn onto South Dakota Highway 44; “The right place to call home!” it reads. I turn right, heading north into town. Familiar sights roll past me, like a window display of childhood memories. To the right is my childhood home, where my mother taught me to read, where I endured chicken pox, and where I met my first friend, who lived right down the alley.
My fondest memories in this rural South Dakota town consist of daily trips to the local pool on sweltering summer days, snacking on juicy red mulberries from the tree in my back yard in the evening light, cruising down main street on my pink Huffy bike to Grandma’s house for board games and ice cream, wrestling with my three cousins, who were more like brothers, and building snowmen with my mother on crisp Midwest winter days when the snow was just right.
Times were simpler then; I did not own a cell-phone to tell my mother when I would be home, but she did not worry, she knew I would return safely before dark; the community did not share exciting details about town gossip through social media sites, but rather chatted over a cup of coffee and a pile of pancakes at the Corner Cafe on Sunday mornings after church. Although it may be a modest town, Marion overflows in kindness, hard-work, and family-centered values.
It has been many years since I have considered myself a resident of Marion, but I still return to visit for holiday gatherings, birthday celebrations, and the region’s claim to fame: the one and only Turner County Fair. Despite the transient nature of my visits, I feel right at home when the small-town folks give me the finger wave from the driver’s seat of their pickup and when I am welcomed by the warm hearted embrace of my family. This place is truly a gem, hidden amongst the boundless golden amber fields and ceaseless sapphire skies.